Ernest Hemingway: At Home in Idaho
Ernest Hemingway’s first visit to Sun Valley was on September 20, 1939. Gene Van Guilder and Steve Hannagan courted glamorous celebrity guests to promote the new Sun Valley Resort. Lloyd Arnold and Van Guilder were among the very first friends that Ernest and Martha Gellhorn made. Hemingway was offered rooms at no cost for two years in the fall in exchange for some publicity photo shoots to help advertise Sun Valley.
His primary interest was to work on his book about the Spanish Civil War. He was not interested in trout fishing – too time consuming, but would go upland bird hunting in the afternoons after disciplined early morning writing sessions in the Lodge’s Room 206.
Among the interesting locals they met at the Lodge the Arnolds, Tillie and Lloyd. He stared at Tillie thinking she resembled his wife Pauline, to whom he had become estranged. She was called Tillie because with her short haircut she looked like Tillie the Toiler, the cartoon character on the Second World War posters. Her real name was Erma.
Ernest stayed three years in a row, then WWII hit and the Lodge closed to be a Naval Convalescent Hospital.
Hemingway came West again in the fall of 1946 with new wife Mary Welsh. Traveling in Wyoming, Hemingway saved Mary’s life in Casper. She had suffered a tubal pregnancy and her fallopian tubes ruptured causing her veins to collapse. Hemingway cut into a vein to get plasma started.
Mary and Ernest also stayed at the Sun Valley Lodge, Room 206 when they visited. However, their stay became extended in 1946 and they rented McDonald’s Cabins, and again in 1947 when Hemingway worked on Garden of Eden. Hemingway and Mary did not return to Sun Valley until the fall of 1958. They rented the Heiss house September 15 – December 1, then rented the Whitcher house on 2nd Avenue for the rest of the winter. In the spring of 1959 Hemingway bought his final home from Bob Topping. It sits to this day on almost nineteen acres overlooking the Big Wood River.
Taylor Williams, a dear friend and hunting companion of Hemingway’s since 1939, died on February 18, 1959, at the age of 72. He was buried in Ketchum Cemetery in a plot that Ernest bought for him. Hemingway was a pall bearer.
Hemingway spent most of 1959 in Spain doing research on bullfighting. He and Mary came back to Sun Valley in 1959 for Christmas in their new house by the Big Wood River.
Ernest was struggling with his health and depression. One of his doctors, George Saviers, checked him into the Mayo Clinic on November 30, 1960. Mary and Ernst Hemingway returned to Ketchum in the Spring 1961. Hemingway killed himself in his home shortly after with a shot gun on July 2.